23rd August 2003
Hertfordshire Rail Tours
(Bath or Bristol)
(Pride of the Nation)
1Z66 : Letchworth to Bristol Temple Meads
1Z28 : Bristol Temple Meads to Letchworth
|66022||Letchworth - Hitchin - Stevenage - Potters Bar - Finsbury Park - Freight Terminal Jn - Camden Road - Gospel Oak - Willesden Junction HL - Acton Wells Jn - South Acton - Brentford - Hounslow - Staines - Virginia Water - Chertsey - Woking - Fleet - Basingstoke - Salisbury - Warminster - Westbury - Trowbridge - Bradford-on-Avon - Bath Spa - Bristol Temple Meads|
|66022||Bristol Temple Meads - (reverse of outward route) - Letchworth|
Sources : various including Geoff Middleton
(by Geoff Middleton)
What with one thing or another, I’ve not done many diners over the years – a combination of the cost, lack of decent haulage or route/destination being among the main reasons.
However, with HRT’s Pride of the Nation to Bath offering the chance to visit the Avon Valley railway, plus the possibility of another new ‘shed’ for haulage (I know, I know, it’s sad…), I decided to treat myself, take out a second mortgage and splash out the requisite £98 quid.
The first problem was accessing the tour, which started at Letchworth Garden City and picked up at stations to Finsbury Park. This being the Bank Holiday weekend, direct travel from Stafford to Euston (or almost anywhere else) was out of the question, but a quick drive across to Loughborough enabled me to get to St Pancras well in time for underground transfer to Finsbury Park.
The day started on a high note with the arrival of 66 022 at the head of the train – another red line in the haulage book! Even better was to come when I located my seat on the train to find myself at a table for two. This would normally have cost an extra tenner at least.
As you might expect, the general atmosphere on a diner is somewhat different to your normal enthusiast spinner. The thing that struck me most was how much older most of the regulars appear to be. I’m no spring chicken, but I felt positively juvenile sitting there armed with my pen and notebook among the octegenarians.
Major engineering in the Paddington area meant our tour had been diverted late in the day to what, for me, seemed a far more interesting route.
An excellent full English breakfast was served as we traversed the North London Line and then staggered via Kew, Hounslow and Staines to reach Woking. Here, the 66 was at last allowed to stretch its legs as we raced through Basingstoke and Worting Junction, where we took the route to Salisbury.
Such were the Network Rail timings that we were starting to gain rapidly and when a planned pathing stop at Westbury failed to materialise, it put us around 30 minutes ahead of the game. This continued as we passed through Trowbridge and on to Bathampton Junction. In fact, it completely caught out the catering team, who were just serving morning coffee as we pulled into Bath Spa.
Here, I managed to grab a sustaining pint before heading on the coach transfer to the Avon Valley. It was the first time I’d visited this line and impressions were very favourable. We had reserved seats on their 2.45pm departure which featured a preserved ‘07’ and some kettle or other in top and tail mode. Highly enjoyable.
Back to Bath Spa and having thoroughly enjoyed breakfast, I was now licking my lips at the prospect of the four-course dinner while retracing our outward route. Even more so the two gin & tonics I’d pre-ordered as an aperitif (not usually my kind of drink, but hey, when in Rome…).
And yes, the dinner was every bit as good as the breakfast and having also enjoyed the gins, I have to confess that my recollections of the journey home are slightly hazy. But it must have gone OK because arrival back at Finsbury Park was slightly ahead of schedule.
All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed the whole experience. The dining experience was excellent, the food well cooked and the service polite and attentive. Coupled with great weather, the visit to the Avon Valley Railway and another shed for haulage, it made the £98 seem like a bargain.
Timings (Booked & Actual)
|Stevenage||07.57a ~ 07.59d||07.58 ~ 08.02||22.03a ~ 22.05d||21.48 ~ 21.51|
|Woolmer Green Jn||08/03||08/05||21/59||21/44|
|Welwyn Garden City||08.07a ~ 08.09d||08.09 ~ 08.12||21.53a ~ 21.55d||21.36 ~ 21.37|
|Potters Bar||08.17a ~ 08.19d||08.20 ~ 08.23||21.41a ~ 21.44d||21.24 ~ 21.28|
|Finsbury Park||08.34a ~ 08.36d||08.34 ~ 08.37||21.22a ~ 21.24d||21.04 ~ 21.10|
|Holloway South Jn||08/39||?||21/18||?|
|Freight Terminal Jn||08/41||?||20.52a ~ 21.16d||?|
|Camden Road East Jn||08/45||?||20/49||?|
|Kensal Green Jn LL||09/13||09/00||20/34||20/37|
|Willesden Junction HL||09/15||09/17||20/32||20/36|
|Acton Wells Jn||09/18||09/19||20/29||20/27|
|Kew East Jn||09/28||09/26||20/22||20/23|
|Byfleet & New Haw||10/18||?||19/28||?|
|Tunnel Jn||11.19a ~ 11.38d||?||18/25||?|
|Warminster||12/06||11.50a ~ ??.??d||17/43||17/44|
|Westbury||12.16a ~ 12.32d||11.54 ~ 12.00||17/34||17/36|
|Bath Spa||13.00a ~ 13.03d||12.24 ~ 12.30||17.08a ~ 17.11d||17.09 ~ 17.13|
|North Somerset Jn||13/15||?||16/57||?|
|Bristol East Jn||13/17||?||16/56||?|
|Bristol Temple Meads||13.19a||12.44||16.55d||16.56|
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